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re you already using a cohort-based learning approach as a learning provider? If so, you should be ready to scale the course you are running.

On most occasions, scaling cohort-based courses is far from being easy. It is all simply because this approach puts interaction and motivation at the center of the learning process. 

Teaching a 20-student cohort is one thing, but what if there's an opportunity or demand for more cohorts or courses? 

It will require specific capacity and capability from your team and infrastructure. Apart from preparing a plan and teaching, a learning provider will need to ensure proper communication and engagement for each cohort. 

Are you looking for advice? Learn more about expanding cohort-based courses, associated challenges, and primary approaches to tune up your learning system to accommodate growth.

Scaling online cohort-based courses: What is it and do you need it?

First, scaling online cohort courses is concerned with adjusting your course system and infrastructure to maintain quality and active learning when the number of cohorts, students, or programs grows.

The rise of learners and learning subjects brings a sure overload on the learning provider. For them, it means concerns and challenges in expanding their team, optimizing processes, and maintaining the instructor's presence.

Thus, before expanding the cohort-based courses, you should ask yourself a question: 

  • Do I have enough resources to maintain the quality of the learning and make courses equally captivating, relevant, and engaging?

If you are positive, then it is time to consider how to scale your programs and identify areas that need improvement.

Primary strategies to scale cohort-based courses

The expansion of cohort courses may take different turns and have various forms. For instance, you may have a class with great recommendations, getting you more students or cohorts. Or your students may demand more programs related to the original one, making you create adjoining programs. Yet, they will involve completely different approaches. Which ones?

Let's consider the primary strategies you may bring to life, or that may happen to your courses. 

Scaling strategy #1: Adjusting course lesson program for more cohorts

So, the most straightforward way to scale cohort-based courses is to provide the same program but to different cohorts of students. 

Let's say your original course rocks. It is in good demand, and you want to bring more students. Yet, more students means more events, lectures, assignments, and discussions. 

That way, in one month, a perfect cohort of 20 students may turn into four cohorts of 80 students, bringing more pressure on you. For instance, you will need to fit four more lectures and Q&A sessions after them into the week and devote more time to the assignments. 

As a result, you will need to improve the task and event management and maintain presence. 

Scaling strategy #2. Building a ladder of courses around specific topics

This strategy to expand courses is more complicated, implying an increase in the number of programs related to one another. 

Let's say you have a course about marketing for Junior specialists while there is demand from students to get Middle-level skills. That way, one cohort-based system turns into three cohort-based courses with at least one cohort each in the related field. 

Note. Check how Level C program uses this approach, creating a funnel/ladder of courses that a cohort can take. It allows scaling while managing student retention, marketing and provision of value.

What does it mean for instructors? In addition to better cohort-based course management, they will need more materials, new programs, instructors, and new guests.

Scaling strategy #3. Developing a chain of courses

To begin with, creating a chain of courses with different cohorts and interconnected topics is the way to expand to the size of an academy. Compared to the previous scenarios, it is much more complicated and comprehensive.

Imagine that you have a developed series of practical marketing courses. 

As you grow, you invite a guest speaker or creator specialized in branding, who brings their audience. Suddenly, you have two courses with the audience enough for two cohorts in each course. Next, you decide to go further and give your audience more value. Thus, you team up with a copywriting expert and make a content marketing course.

As a result, out of 3 courses, you are building a bootcamp or even a remote academy for entrepreneurs. 

Sounds easy. Yet, it's not.

Such an expansion will take a lot of work for a learning provider. It will require you to hire instructors, organize a comprehensive system, automate many processes, and even create a community.

Expanding cohort-based courses: Challenges and solutions

Whether you are increasing the number of cohorts or building a diverse network of courses, the key challenges are likely to be the same:

  • The optimization of manual processes. Organizing small courses and cohorts will take little time. However, with scaling, an additional monkey job won't let you proceed at the right tempo.
  • The support of active learning and teacher's presence. Providing courses to 20 students is one thing. Yet, teaching 60 students within three different groups is another. There, you should use strategies and techniques to maintain engagement and be present for learners.

The things that will matter are the effect and the amount of resources it will take from you. That way, failing to organize the program can negatively affect students' quality of learning, participation, and motivation and your desire to keep the courses running. 

In this regard, we have prepared effective strategies to help you scale the cohort courses and prevent troubleshooting and mismanagement.

Team capacity and participation: Setting clear guidelines and roles

One of the primary steps to take when expanding cohort-based courses is improving instructor capacity. The more cohorts and courses you have, the bigger team you need.

To make it work, you should define the needs of the course and fill the gaps. As soon as you identify them, set clear guidelines for the team. In particular, you may have the following options for team expansion:

  • A course administrator or facilitator to do behind-the-scenes jobs, like sending notifications and managing 
  • An instructional designer who organizes complicated programs with multiple elements, events, and assignments.
  • An invited expert or guest to cover a new topic and invite more audience. 

Note. With the right cohort-based learning software, like EducateMe, you automate many processes, including sending notifications.

Notification management when scaling cohort based courses.

Content development: Managing and diversifying content

With more courses, the need for quality content will only grow. And you should remember that cohort learning focuses mainly on engagement and interactive materials. Thus, it is crucial to maintain a proper delivery of the content that will ignite discussions and be interesting. 

How can you effectively manage content production?

  • Using peer-teaching. To increase engagement and decrease the overload, apply a peer-teaching method, asking students to cover new materials. You can resort to former students or lecturers if you have a developed community.
  • Duplicating programs. Why create a structure for a new cohort if the existing one works? You can use the course curriculum for the new cohort and make amendments following student needs.
  • Creating a library. Develop a comprehensive media center where students can access talking points, insights, additional information, and inspiration.  
  • Application of hybrid cohort learning model. You may add self-paced elements and pre-recorded sessions to your course. That way, you can reduce time for content creation, yet you will sacrifice engagement.

Note. EducateM offers an AI assistant to create courses. With it, you can describe the course structure to create a curriculum and get the customizable course skeleton in minutes.

AI solution to scale cohort based courses.

Lessons and assessment delivery: Managing and automating tasks 

Another pretty crucial area is the management of repetitive tasks. Many of them refer to events, lessons, assignment administration and organization. 

Imagine you should define the time slots for each cohort, determine deadlines, and schedule a drip course. It requires some planning on what, how, and where to deliver. 

In this case, one may suggest using a Google Calendar as the primary tool. Sure, it is ideal for a small cohort of 15 students. However, setting a schedule for 80 or 100 people will cost you the time and effort you may spend teaching.

What are the effective options here? 

  • Delegate functions to the administrator and instructional designer. They refer to areas of program design, communication with students and guests, access management and software implementation, and testing.
  • Use additional software or effective LMS for dealing with automation. There are event management suites as well as LMS with solid management options.

Note. EducateMe offers a Kanban dashboard to manage student assignments. 

Better cohort-based course management

Besides, the EducateMe calendar feature allows scheduling events and newly created lessons within the calendar automatically.

Automate scheduling of events to scale cohort courses.

The screenshot is illustrative of how easy it is to schedule 13 lessons on certain days for a cohort by determining the starting date, time, and days of the week for a class to be held.

Communication and collaboration: Granting feedback and peer-to-peer interaction

Also, it is essential to support effective communication and collaboration, especially if you have multiple groups of students. The best way to do it online is via communities or groups with a determined access and transparent organization. 

Notably, you can create a cohort learning community for all the students to support each other and ask for advice on certain stages. You can use Slack groups, channels, or LMS with built-in engagement tools.

Regarding collaboration, you may use various techniques to ignite discussion or help comprehend the lesson materials. Lastly, collaboration software, like Padel, Miro, and Figma for ideas exchange and cooperation, provides interactive virtual spaces for brainstorming.

Note. Offer learners collaborative tasks, like case studies, projects, or discussions, especially if you lack time for a quality discussion. 

Active learning and student retention: Tracking progress and ensuring support

One more issue to consider relates to active learning and retention of students. You should make sure that students are excited and interested. Unfortunately, with more students, events, and assignments, you may spend less time interacting with them and answering their needs. Why? You will do less social and learner listening, failing to offer an appropriate personalized approach.

Focus on monitoring students' progress and offering them help if needed. It will allow you to know more about needs and address them effectively.

  • Track the completion of assignments and attendance. Focus on those who fail to attend classes or complete projects and contact them to help them with blockers.
  • Do polls and ask students for feedback. Organize polls on students' knowledge at the beginning of the course to ensure the content and lectures will interest them. Also, ask for feedback after the lessons. Both can be done by you or the administrator.

Note. With the right cohort-based learning software having a single dashboard for students activity overview, you can significantly ease student monitoring and identify the students who need your attention or help.

Cohort learning analytics and scaling.

Conclusion: Can scaling cohort based courses be effective?

We can say for sure that expanding cohort based courses can be effective. Yet, much depends on how you approach it, which strategies to scale you choose and how well you cope with the overload.

Generally, you need three primary strategies for scaling cohort-based courses

  • Adjusting course programs for more cohorts
  • Building a ladder of courses with similar topics 
  • Developing a chain of courses. 

What are the challenges in this regard? Usually, the support of active learning and optimization of processes.

And the best solutions to deal with them refer to improving team capacity, ensuring content development and delivery, providing enough engagement and collaboration, and supporting the instructor's presence.

However, it is not as easy. It matter how you manage the roles, responsibilities, processes AND use tools. EducateMe is just one of such cohort-based tools that put management, engagement and automation in the center of learning. Thus, why not try it now or book a demo?

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